Restored classic silent film premieres in UK

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A restored version of the 1930s Chinese classic silent film "Goddess" was screened in London, with a new music score performed live by the English Chamber Orchestra.

Poster of the screening of "Goddess" in London. [File Photo]


Featuring the most famous actress of the Chinese silent cinema, Goddess tells the story of a young single mother who struggles to raise her son, by working as a prostitute on the streets of the 1930s metropolitan of Shanghai.

The film was restored by the China Film Archive and invited by the British Film Institute to London, as part of this year's London Film Festival program.

Sun Xianghui, director of the China Film Archive says this classic Chinese silent film was almost 80 years old, but with restoration and a new music score by Chinese composer Zou Ye, it was given a new life.

"There is a huge contrast before and after the restoration. You can no longer see the blur and scratch but a perfect clear screen. For example, in this film, the leading actress Ruan Lingyu is looking gorgeous. For colored pictures, after restoration, their quality is on par with what we see in cinemas today."

The new music score for the film is commissioned by the K T Wong Foundation, with the composer chosen by its president Lady Davis herself.

"The choice of composer is very important. I chose Zou Ye because he is a very well-known film composer in China. He understood the time and era in which the film was made, so he was not going to put something too contemporary in it. He integrated Shanghainese folk tunes and orchestrated in such a way that there is no doubt this is a Chinese film score."

The music was performed by the English Chamber Orchestra with British conductor Nicholas Chalmer. To local spectator Nicola Hutchings, the combination of Chinese film and western orchestra creates an extraordinary cinematic experience.

"I thought it was fantastic, they went very well together. There is still a touch of Chinese notes in the score. I was enraptured all the way through, I don't think there is a moment where I lost concentration or felt bored. It really grips you all the way."

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